Rev. Sara Salomons: From the ECC to the UCC

Sara Salomons and son, Caleb

I’m a happy and proud graduate of North Park Theological Seminary.  My three years at NPTS were some of the happiest in my life.  I often describe my seminary experience as being womb-like.  I was fed and nurtured and loved.  My voice was heard.  My opinions mattered.  Pretty magical, if I do say so myself.

Shortly after seminary graduation it was time to write my application for ordination.  I approached it like I approach everything in life – with honesty.  One of the last questions of the application concerned human sexuality.  It covered the gamut – premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, and cohabitation.  I was asked to briefly respond to the whole of human sexuality in one small space.  I couldn’t do it.  It was such a huge question.  I didn’t even know where to begin.  I assumed I was to provide a brief and acceptable answer.  And I didn’t have that brief, acceptable answer.  I remember saving it for last.  How was I going to honestly answer it with diplomacy and integrity?  I spent thousands of dollars and three years of my life on training to become a minister, I couldn’t toss it all out the window because of this question about sexuality on my ordination application. Continue reading Rev. Sara Salomons: From the ECC to the UCC

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff: Reflections of God’s Love and Grace

Eva Sullivan-Knoff and Family

When our son came out to us, his dad and I were moved by his pain. As parents, nothing hurts more than seeing your son or daughter in pain. It hurts in a way that nothing else does, no matter the substance of the pain. The same thing is true when there is cause for celebration in your son or daughter’s lives. Nothing fills a parent’s heart more than sharing in their joy. There is truly nothing else like that. Because of the love parents have for their son or daughter, they share their sorrow and they celebrate in their joy.

In the scriptures and in the church, we are given a similar message in our relationship to one another. In Romans 12:15 we are told to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” As the Body of Christ, we are to share each other’s heartaches and to celebrate each other’s joys, just as parents hopefully do with their children. It is one of the greatest ways we show our love for each other. Continue reading Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff: Reflections of God’s Love and Grace

Rev. James Anderson: Covenant Conflicts

Rev. James Anderson

Author’s Note: What follows are memories of one who has been in and about Evangelical Covenant churches all of his 80 years. Aside from consulting confutable memories, there has been no searching of archives for facts.

I was young, but not too young to figure out what was happening when scandal disturbed our bucolic Iowa farm community. A well-known young man had secretly married a divorced woman. I learned quickly that divorce was taboo, expected far away in Hollywood but not where we lived. It didn’t help that the man’s family had deep, founding roots in the Mission Covenant Church, or that he was part of our extended family. The couple stayed married to one another and part of that community the rest of their lives, eventually well-respected and admired, but they seldom appeared at my home church other than for weddings, funerals, and other obligatory events.

When I arrived at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago in the early 1950’s, divorce was a hot button topic, stirring opinions right and left—one side proclaiming, “The Bible says. . . ,” others declaring, “But the Bible also says. . . ,” on and on. The source of those arguments was a promising seminarian who had informed seminary and church leaders he would marry a divorced woman, an unheard-of infraction of propriety if not actual rules that must surely block his being pastor of a Covenant church. In those dorm room discussions, most assumed he would move to a more liberal denomination, as had others who were unable to accept restraints of Covenant theology and practice. However, his great desire was to serve in Covenant churches, thus the dorm room discussions, pale reflections, I suppose, of heated confrontation in ministerial boards and seminary faculty meetings. Continue reading Rev. James Anderson: Covenant Conflicts

Casey Pick: “A Broken Family”

Casey and Amy (L-R)

Over the course of our friendship, Amy and I have discovered that we are in many ways mirror images of each other – very similar in some ways, and yet such complete opposites in others that it is faintly ridiculous and evidence of God’s presence in our lives that we are friends at all. Given this, it was fitting that we each independently discovered “Coming Out Covenant” simultaneously. She found it because of her lifelong affiliation with the denomination. I found it because of my work as a professional activist fighting on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who specializes in outreach to conservatives and people of faith. Together we celebrated its existence, and speculated as to what this conversation could mean for the Evangelical Covenant Church that we both love.

It wasn’t until one day as Amy – further proving her mettle as a true friend – was helping me move that she told me she’d been waiting impatiently for my contribution to the site. I will never forget the look on her face when I told her I wasn’t planning on writing one, that I didn’t feel I could. You see, this is a website for people who consider themselves to be a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church – and I didn’t, not really. Not yet. Continue reading Casey Pick: “A Broken Family”

Amy Beisel: “Family Ties”

Casey and Amy (L-R)

Casey is my dearest and unlikeliest of friends. In college she was assigned to live in the dorm that I shared with five Christian women, in a suite affectionately known as the “God Pod.”  Casey was openly gay and openly hostile towards Christianity.  After the things some Christians had said to her — that God hated her, that she was going to hell, that she was an abomination in God’s eyes — who could blame her?

During the year that we lived together, Casey was curious about the fact that we worshiped God and that we respected her, that we loved Jesus and also loved her.  She joined us at our Christian fellowship meetings and tagged along to church.  We even did Bible studies together so she could learn more about the real Jesus, not the hateful God she had heard about.  But as Casey came to believe that Jesus was God and that He might even love her, we had to confront one final, urgent question: Could she be gay and Christian? Continue reading Amy Beisel: “Family Ties”

Remember the Other Question

"How goes your walk with the Lord?"

Last night as I was sitting in my bedroom reading, I suddenly became aware of the date. Exactly four months have passed since that January morning when I woke up, sat down at my computer, logged into WordPress, and clicked “publish” for the first time. I put a link on my Facebook page and went upstairs to make breakfast: oatmeal and blueberries – just another day in the life of the recently unemployed. I sat in the kitchen and ate my fibrous morning meal, thinking to myself, “who’s really going to read this blog?” I had already come out to my entire family, to most of my friends, and to nearly everyone I encounter in my day-to-day life. I imagined those who would see my link on their Facebook news feed simply saying, “Oh, Andrew’s gay; knew that already,” then keep scrolling. But by the time I returned to my desk, my inbox had started filling up, my phone was ringing, and Facebook notifications were coming in by the minute. At the end of the day, we had received nearly 4,000 hits.

To this day, I still don’t quite get how it happened. Continue reading Remember the Other Question

Rev. Paul Corner: “A Way Forward”

Rev. Paul Corner

When I first arrived at North Park Seminary, it was always a bit of a surprise to me how much the question of women in ministry remained an ‘issue’ for many congregations, lay people, clergy, and students in the ECC.  Having grown up in the United Methodist Church, I would jokingly say to classmates, “We were well beyond that at my home church.  People were more worked up over the lesbian couple that sat in the pew behind my family every Sunday.”  However, the irony for me in making that statement was that, as a child, I had no idea about the nature of their relationship, and I had no concept of the divide that existed in my church over their presence, participation, and leadership in our congregation.  The reality is that for me, homosexuality did not exist.  It was not something I encountered openly and regularly, and so it was off of my radar screen save for the cruel jokes and words pre-adolescents will call one another.

My first real encounter with the tension that exists between the LGBT community and the church came when I was a freshman at Penn State.  Continue reading Rev. Paul Corner: “A Way Forward”

Charlotte Johnson: “Staying Home”

L-R: Joan Gauthey and Charlotte Johnson

It’s hard to believe that “Coming Out Covenant” is truly up and running. I’m in my 70th year, and it has taken a very long time to acknowledge a large group of human beings living in our midst. I am one of them.

My name is Charlotte Johnson, and I live with my spouse, Joan Gauthey, in Washington, CT. We belong to Salem Covenant Church in Washington Depot, where we have been active for 44 years. When I say active, I mean ACTIVE. I’ve been in the choir since age 14, both of us have spent years on church council, Joan has been church chair, together we’ve been on Diaconate, Fellowship committee, Christian Education, pastoral search committee, Joan helped with nursery and I’ve organized Lenten Lunches for 20 years. SHOCKINGLY, we even headed the young people’s group when we were young and agile. (Some of those “kids” are now grandparents!) Oh yes, delegates to annual and conference meetings several times. Where we totally fall by the wayside is that neither of us bakes, and I’m a mediocre cook.

Joan has been a wonderful high school teacher for 35 years in town, and was coach of the year in Field Hockey in 1991 for the United States of America. Her Covenant resume is pretty thin. She’s only been in the church 47 years, is Irish, Arab and French, and was brought up in a Congregational Church. However, she did work with Jerry Johnson and the Barnabas group for several years. I, on the other hand, am a saturated “Covie.” My grandparents from Sweden helped start our church in 1888. My father was on the Diaconate for 40 years, and mother rolled enough bandages to circle the Congo. They put their blood, sweat, tears and constant prayers into our church family, as did Aunt Ruth, who lived with us and was always part of the family. Aunt Ruth was born in Sweden, confirmed in our church, and died at age 100 and buried by said church. My sister, 13 years older, and aunt went to North Park College (NPC) and Swedish Covenant Hospital (SCH) starting in 1924 – 1951. Continue reading Charlotte Johnson: “Staying Home”

Katie Klug: “Confronting Convenient Boxes”

(L-R): Leah and Katie Klug

So, Katie,” my group of peers began ominously, “what do you think of Greg being gay?”

All eyes were on me.

I was in high school and was widely known for being an outgoing, kind, hyper-involved straight-A-student.  I was the poster-child for excellence.  However, I was also a poster-child for an outspoken, opinionated and legalistic brand of “Christianity” that had no room for people who were gay, Mormon or having sex outside of marriage.  I’m actually still not sure where I latched on to some of those ideas.  Let’s just blame TBN and move on with the story.

Well,” I paused, “I like Greg, but I don’t think it is right.”

The classic ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ routine.  How progressive I was!  I wasn’t from the backwoods; I knew that Jesus loved everyone.  I just (somewhat unconsciously) thought he loved me more for being a straight virgin who didn’t break rules and volunteered copious amounts of time to a plethora of organizations.

I was 13 when I first experienced the possibility and truth of a contextual interpretation of the scriptures.  My mother was about to become a pastor in the ECC and, though they did not seem consistent with the God I loved, I knew full well the scriptures that spoke against women in ministry and leadership.  How could my pre-teen brain reconcile this dichotomy? Continue reading Katie Klug: “Confronting Convenient Boxes”

Leah Klug: “Let Us Work Together”

Leah Klug

Last Tuesday, I stood in front of a class full of seminarians and made a presentation about how we would be imaging God in our class.  While I read scripture, I showed slides of classic Bible scenes as depicted by cultures all over the world.  Jesus was Korean, African, Chinese, Indian, White, European American, Sioux, Cherokee, Italian, Saudi Arabian, and Palestinian.  In my language, I spoke of what it means to open our imaging of God so that those in the pews can see themselves as created in God’s image. In my language, I asked them also to imagine that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members of their congregations were also created in God’s image. I teach in a liberal, inclusive Jesuit seminary that has found a way to make room for Protestants from many denominations to study alongside Catholic students, and train together for work in ministry.

A year ago, I was a churchplanter in the Evangelical Covenant Church.  Shortly after my ordination in June 2009, I left the ECC church I had worked at for eight years to start a new congregation in Seattle’s diverse University District.  As my husband and I made it known that we would be planting a new congregation, the question came up again and again: would I be welcome at your church? Would my parents be welcome at your church? When people start asking if they would be welcome, if they would be safe in church, something is wrong. I knew I needed to step into God’s call on my life as a minister, and preach openly that all of us, gay and straight, are welcomed and celebrated in the God’s kingdom. Soon thereafter, we officially announced that the churchplant would be open and affirming. Continue reading Leah Klug: “Let Us Work Together”